Do Turntables Require Electricity?


“I know that it may make me look quite ignorant, but do turntables require electricity?” That was me a few years ago, asking that to a resident audiophile in my community. This question is not an “ignorant” question but rather a pretty interesting one: do turntables require electricity?

All modern record players require electricity, and this was a common occurrence even a hundred years back. Electricity is essential for record players as they need electric energy to transform data into audible sound waves.

Why do modern record players require electricity, and what role does it play in creating music? These are the questions we would like for you to ask, and we will answer them below.

Question Numero Uno: Do Turntables Require Electricity? How Is A Record Player Powered?

As a technological advancement that has existed for way more than a century, answering this question is relatively simple yet complicated at the same time. The vast history of vinyl record players hinders us greatly from answering “easy” questions such as this. To answer this quite quickly, let us approach this chronologically, spreading and seeding some history lessons on the way.

The Phonographs Do Not Need Electricity

Phonographs are the earliest forms of record players out there, and they sometimes can come in various names; one of such is the gramophone. They work similarly with today’s record players, as such that it uses the patterns on grooves to store audio data on data storage devices known as “records,” the very descendant of our very own, very beloved vinyl records. However, they do operate very differently when compared to today’s vinyl record players. (2)

Although today, many consider the vinyl record player a manual machine with lots of old technology incorporated, the vintage gramophones included even more manual aspects to its operational processes. For example, unlike today with motor-powered record players or with belt-driven ones, the old gramophone or phonograph needed mechanical energy to operate. By mechanical energy, we mean that you would need to use your arms and crank the platter to rotate it, and literally, “manually manning” the whole thing. 

Because the old gramophones needed mechanical energy, they would have no use for electricity and thus, did not require electricity. So to answer your question, “Do turntables require electricity?” the answer will be no (in this context at least).

The Portable Record Players Do Not Need To Be Plugged In

Once upon a time, wanting to own a computer meant that the computer would need you to allocate a whole room for its very existence. It was clunky, heavy, and indeed, it wasn’t too comfortable to use, unfortunately. Today, however, you are probably reading this very article using the computer you have in the palm of your hands; yes, your phone.

Portability is a fundamental aspect of a device, and it was an essential point indeed. Even though not as portable, the desire for portability and mobility encouraged the demand for MP3 players, mobile phones, and televisions. And although MP3 players do play the music, you may want, some still want a portable record player that was in the form of a turntable but still be a more portable option.

Enter: the portable turntable, a sleeker (not very sleek), lighter (not very lightweight), and more portable (not very portable) alternative to the traditional record player. The portable record player was not as mobile and portable as an MP3 player. Still, it did build a bridge between portability and experience, built for people with a keen sense of useability and purpose. (3)

Because the portable record players are serving its abilities for the mobile audiophile, requiring an alternating current input would make it a lost purpose. Therefore, instead of using alternating current energy input, it uses direct current energy input instead. What does this imply in real-world use?

Do turntables require electricity or portable turntables in this sense? Well, the answer is yes, but actually no. If you use a cable and plug it into a wall socket by electricity, then the answer is no. 

However, by application, portable record players do need electricity as it uses batteries, which, in theory, uses chemical energy. However, batteries function in a way that uses chemical energy and transforms it into electrical power, which means that it uses electricity at the end of the day. Moreover, since these batteries are rechargeable, you will still need to plug them into a wall socket sooner or later.

Modern Record Players Need Electricity

If you have read our previous articles, you may or may not have read all about the talk on belt-driven and direct drive record players. Simply put, belt-driven turntables require a physical belt to function, while direct drive turntables need none as they have a motor. It may seem like there is an implication that belt-driven turntables do not have motors.

However, the truth is more complex than that, such that the reality is, even belt-driven record players utilize a motor to rotate the platter. So what does this imply in our search for the answer, then? Do turntables require electricity?

The answer is a quick and resounding yes! All motors (which means all record players that have motors) will require electricity if you must know. Having a motor without needing electricity would be crude, as the definition of a motor is a device that transforms electrical energy into mechanical energy, meaning that it does require electricity. (4)

Okay, now we know that the turntable requires electricity, but what else requires electricity? Well, let us talk about that in the next section, shall we?

Question Numero Dos: What Components Of The Modern Turntables Require Electricity?

As we now know, unless you are using the ancient and very untimely gramophone, chances are your record player does require electricity in one way or another. So what components of the record player need electricity specifically? Well, let us get rolling then.

Do turntables require electricity? Well, first, let’s start with the speakers.

The speakers inside the record player require electricity as their primary purpose is to convert electrical energy into mechanical energy. You may be confused reading “mechanical energy,” asking yourself, “Isn’t it supposed to be sound energy?” The truth is how most speakers work is that they repeatedly move in a short period to create vibrations that our ears will then perceive as sound.

Of course, most turntables do not have a built-in speaker. However, to fully utilize a turntable, you will eventually make use of a speaker. To fully use the record player, you will need a speaker, which in turn, does use electricity. (5)

Aside from the speaker, we have also discussed one of the electricity hogs inside a record player: the motor. Because discussing it will be redundant, we will move on to the following aspects.

Many record players today incorporate some automatic feature one way or another. For example, when the stop button is pressed, cueing levers will help your record players raise the cartridge or the tonearm to minimize or mitigate damage that the needle may cause. Moreover, auto-stop features, a technology incorporated to automatically halt the platter’s rotation after the record has ended, are also automatic features.

These automatic features may seem mundane and may seem irrelevant and taken for granted. However, they, too, need electricity to operate to execute their crucial jobs.

You Ask The Questions; We Answer (The Frequently Asked Questions Section)

What are the essential components and parts of the turntable?

Although some of these parts may not come inherently included with the record player, they are required, ergo, needed to operate. These parts are the stylus, the cartridge, the speakers, the preamplifier, the amplifier, the tonearm, and the platter. There are more specific components, but they are for another discussion.

Why are there grooves on the vinyl record?

These grooves can be related to the writing we do on paper. The vinyl is like paper, while the grooves and the patterns in them are the writings. Simply put, they contain the data.

Are record players stereo?

They can be stereo or mono but mostly depend on the tonearm and the vinyl record itself. Most, if not all, modern record players are stereo out of the box.

Sources

  1. https://retroonly.com/do-record-players-need-electricity/
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phonograph
  3. https://vinylbro.com/do-record-players-need-electriciy/
  4. https://www.britannica.com/technology/electric-motor
  5. https://blog.landr.com/how-do-speakers-work/

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